The Art of Symbols and Metaphors


“And the Raven, never flitting, still is sitting, still is sitting

On the pallid bust of Pallas just above my chamber door;

And his eyes have all the seeming of a demon’s that is dreaming,

And the lamp-light o’er him streaming throws his shadow on the floor;

And my soul from out that shadow that lies floating on the floor

                                                                        Shall be lifted—nevermore!” (946).

            The major devices that is used in this poem and in this passage are metaphor and symbolism. The major symbol of the poem is the Raven. I took the Raven to represent the feeling of intense sorrow that comes from the loss of someone very dear and that cannot be alleviated. Evidence of this symbolism is present throughout the poem but one strong example is when the narrator begs for the object that might quell his sadness of the loss of his dear Lenore and the Raven refuses. “’…is there balm in Gilead?—tell me—tell me, I implore!’ Quoth the Raven, ‘Nevermore,’” (945). The narrator enquires if the cure to his heartbreak exists and the Raven seems to imply that there is not a fix for his misery. This idea also connects perfectly with the final stanza. “And the Raven, never flitting, still is sitting…” (946).

            Most of the passage above shows that the narrator will never get over the sorrow he feels about his lost Lenore. There seems to a gap in time between the last two paragraphs and this adds even more to the feeling that this the narrator’s suffering will be unending. The passage above is the most important quote for seeing that the narrator will never be able to escape the depression that covers him. In this passage, Poe uses very precise and perfect language to describe the situation and lead to a metaphorical ending. He also uses details that seem to be just extra information and perfectly crafts into the symbolism of the story.

Naysayers may doubt the following metaphor but I maintain that it is too perfect to have been included by chance. “And the Raven, never flitting, still is sitting, still is sitting … On the pallid bust of Pallas just above my chamber door;” (946). Pallas is another name for the Greek goddess Athena, who is the goddess of wisdom. The Raven sitting upon the bust of Pallas is a metaphor showing that the narrator’s sorrow is conquering his logic and intellect and that his mind is being fully occupied by this grief. Unless the reader has a profound knowledge for Greek mythology or looked it up on the internet, the reader probably would not have caught that amazingly well thought out metaphor by Poe. It is a seemingly insignificant detail but Poe uses that one word to bring a new dimension to the poem. That shows the true nature of most of “The Raven.” Using allusions Poe brings incredible clarity and credibility to the work and to the narrator’s testimony.  

The phrase “And the Raven, never flitting, still is sitting, still is sitting…” shows that the Raven is unwavering and is never going to leave (946). The narrator is aware of his condition and much like the problem of getting the Raven out of his home, getting through this is just beyond his reach. This supports this hypothesis that the narrator will never escape his sorrow because the Raven is unmoving, and his problem is too much for him to handle. 

            To show the extent to which this despair has restrained the narrator, Poe symbolizes the Raven’s shadow to be like a prison for the narrator. “And my soul from out that shadow that lies floating on the floor…Shall be lifted—nevermore!”(946). To never have one’s soul lifted again is to never again experience happiness. It is for this reason that the tone at the end of this poem is so somber and melancholy. This phrase gives even more support to the eternal unhappiness that awaits the narrator that was already presented by the first part of the passage.

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